Fresh Pre-Combine NFL Mock Draft
It's practically here. In just a few short hours the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine will kick off, thus officially setting the wheel in motion for coaches, general managers and scouts to enter full-fledged evaluation mode.
While there has certainly been plenty of work put in already, the combine gives teams one of the first true opportunities to officially meet and interact with the game's next line of future stars.
So, as players put in their final preparations and dream of running blazing fast forties, let's take one last quick look at when and where the best players are projected to go in the 2013 NFL draft.
1) Kansas City Chiefs: OT Luke Joeckel
The Chiefs and Andy Reid would love to get their franchise quarterback, but with none in sight worthy of the top pick, Luke Joeckel is the most logical choice.
The Branden Albert situation is clearly a talking point, but the main thing will be getting the pick right.
Selecting the best tackle in the draft is a step in the right direction and the smart move to make, considering the Chiefs are more than a quarterback away from competing on a high level consistently.
2) Jacksonville Jaguars: DE Bjoern Werner
The Jaguars pass rush is in dire need of a playmaker, and Werner presents the most well-rounded edge rusher in the draft.
Capable of stopping the run and pass, Werner may not be the most athletically gifted defensive lineman, but he is most certainly the most technically efficient of the bunch.
A combination of initial quickness, heavy hands and football intelligence allow Werner to stay a step ahead and have earned him comparisons to Chris Long, a former No. 2 overall pick himself.
3) Oakland Raiders: DT Star Lotulelei
The Oakland Raiders have a lot of free agents and potential holes coming on the defensive line. With players like Richard Seymour, Desmond Bryant and Matt Shaughnessy all set to hit free agency, Oakland must insert some new young blood.
Star Lotulelei's flexibility to play multiple techniques and fit multiple schemes with effectiveness makes him one of the most versatile defenders in this draft.
Pair him with Lamarr Houston and there's no telling just how dominant of a young force Oakland might have, despite losing some key players along the defensive front.
4) Philadelphia Eagles: CB Dee Milliner
Chip Kelly's first pick will be highly anticipated by Eagles fans and they could go a couple different ways here, as guesses are all over the board to this point.
Eric Fisher could be the guy, considering Jason Peters is coming off a major injury.
Geno Smith is another guy, but it would seem Kelly is content letting the competition between Michael Vick and Dennis Dixon play itself out.
Dee Milliner may not be the sexiest of picks, but he most definitely fills a need in the City of Brotherly Love.
Both Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie have underwhelmed after so much excitement, and Philadelphia could definitely use a solid dependable corner who can also support the run.
5) Detroit Lions: DE/LB Dion Jordan
Martin Mayhew and Jim Schwartz have been active and motivated so far this offseason to fix the mistakes that dropped them from a playoff team in 2011 to a 4-12 record in 2012.
Whether they are able to retain Cliff Avril at a reasonable price or not, defensive end is still a need considering the team recently released veteran leader Kyle Vanden Bosch.
Dion Jordan may seem like an odd fit, but in Detroit's Wide-9 scheme that values explosion and upfield pressure, Jordan certainly presents a worthwhile look and heavy consideration.
While he may need to add weight and get stronger to be an every-down pass rusher, Jordan's long frame, impressive change-of-direction skills and closing speed could make him a nightmare off the edge in Mo-Town.
6) Cleveland Browns: LB Jarvis Jones
New defensive coordinator Ray Horton brings his 3-4 defense over with him from Arizona.
Seeing that Dee Milliner is off the board, Cleveland turns its attention to a pass rusher that can help get pressure opposite Jabaal Sheard.
Jarvis Jones recently gained medical clearance by doctors and would provide a nice complement to a team that needs to turn the heat up on opposing quarterbacks.
While Barkevious Mingo or Damontre Moore could also be in play here, ultimately it is Jones who earns the pick because of his ability and steady production while at Georgia.
7) Arizona Cardinals: OT Eric Fisher
The Cardinals would be doing back flips and executing signature draft-room high fives to land Eric Fisher here.
Having the length, size, athleticism and strength, Fisher is without a doubt one of the top overall players in the entire draft.
While it's entirely likely he could go higher, Arizona would likely sprint up to the podium to get their pick in, as Fisher matches need with value and is a Day One starter.
8) Buffalo Bills: QB Geno Smith
New Bills coach Doug Marrone had the advantage of playing directly against Geno Smith in the Big East before West Virginia transferred to the Big 12 and should know him well considering Syracuse also faced the Mountaineers in the Pinstripe Bowl this past season.
Although Geno Smith struggled in that bowl game, he still possesses many intriguing skills to take a risk on him at this point in the draft.
Both Ryan Fitzpatrick and Tarvaris Jackson are not the answer, and the Bills shouldn't wait to grab a potential franchise quarterback when they can get one with their first selection.
Drafting Smith affords the team greater flexibility with their subsequent picks and also gives them a both a building block and sense of direction to move forward and get excited about.
9) New York Jets: LB/DE Barkevious Mingo
Rex Ryan knows it's a boom-or-bust type of year for him and the team—which is why it makes sense to take a flyer on a high-risk, high-reward player like Barkevious Mingo.
Most understand Mingo is far from a finished product, but his upside is so remarkable, teams will find it hard to let him fall too far—especially after what will likely be an electric combine performance.
Armed with what is likely the fastest first step in the entire draft and a long wiry frame, Mingo's athleticism and ceiling is nearly sky-high.
Rex Ryan and the Jets would certainly be betting on Mingo to be their big bingo.
10) Tennessee Titans: G Chance Warmack
Is there a better player in the draft than Chance Warmack? Probably not; but the fact he doesn't play a premium position will cause him to fall a bit.
Just barely catching the tail end of the Top 10, Warmack further enhances Chris Johnson's effectiveness and displays the team's commitment to him and the running game overall.
A trash-mover and mauler inside, not only is Warmack a devastating in-line blocker, but he is equally effective moving in space as a pulling guard.
Making him an unglamorous but highly useful selection.
11) San Diego Chargers: OT Lane Johnson
While it may be seen as a little bit of a reach, Lane Johnson is a tackle with tons of upside for a team with a serious hole on the most important position on the offensive line.
A former quarterback and tight end, Johnson pairs his athleticism, length and foot quickness with a nasty demeanor to finish blocks and fight through the whistle.
Johnson needs to continue to add weight and strength—especially in his lower body—but he has a ton of tools to work with and should prove to be a quality investment in due time.
12) Miami Dolphins: WR Cordarrelle Patterson
This is a dream scenario for the Dolphins as they are in the enviable position of selecting Cordarrelle Patterson or pass rusher Damontre Moore to complement Cameron Wake.
The board really couldn't fall any better for the Dolphins here, but for me it comes down to the Dolphins' need to provide Tannehill with a legitimate weapon outside.
If the Dolphins do pursue Greg Jennings or Mike Wallace in free agency—which they should—this pick becomes more debatable.
However, at this juncture, Patterson is the player who provides the necessary spark to a team in need of a true No. 1 receiver.
13) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: DE Damontre Moore
Damontre Moore experiences a little bit of a free-fall here, but I personally think he ends up in the right situation by going to the Buccaneers.
Not only does Moore provide great pass-rush help but he also brings great energy for his teammates to feed off with his relentless hustle and motor.
With the recent arrest of Da'Quan Bowers for carrying a gun at LaGuardia Airport, the pick of Moore gives the team another pass-rush option in case discipline is indeed handed down on Bowers.
14) Carolina Panthers: DT Sheldon Richardson
Both Dwan and Ron Edwards simply offer very little help to create interior pressure, making this selection a relatively easy one.
Richardson offers exceptional quickness and gives very good effort snap to snap.
A player that can create disruption and shoot gaps with Richardson's movement skills is much needed, as Defensive Rookie of the Year Luke Kuechly would be the prime benefactor of such a selection.
15) New Orleans Saints: DT Sharrif Floyd
One of the hottest names in the draft right now, Sharrif Floyd has been quietly making his way towards the top of his position group.
With the Saints moving to a 3-4 defensive scheme, the selection of Floyd makes all the more sense.
Sedrick Ellis is believed to be a poor fit for new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan's scheme, meaning the team will likely cut ties with the former first-round pick—creating a gaping hole in the process.
Floyd has the versatility to play multiple positions along the line, while playing the game with solid technique and heavy, powerful hands to jolt opponents backwards.
Don't be surprised if Floyd goes even higher by the time April comes around.
16) St. Louis Rams: G Jonathan Cooper
There are a lot of different directions Jeff Fisher and his club could go here, but ultimately selecting Jonathan Cooper makes the most sense.
One of the most nimble and athletic offensive linemen you will ever see, Cooper has unbelievable initial quickness to seal off his opponent quickly and remain a step ahead in the run game.
There's not many guards who can play in space and get out in front like Cooper, making him a unique interior line prospect who would start immediately for the Rams.
17) Pittsburgh Steelers: LB/DE Ezekiel 'Ziggy' Ansah
Another guy who could continue to climb as we make our way through the draft process, Ziggy Ansah screams future Pittsburgh Steeler.
With an unbelievable combination of athleticism, length and power, Ansah would bring youth to an aging group of pass rushers.
I could see the Steelers going a lot of different ways here by taking a receiver like Keenan Allen or safety like Kenny Vaccaro, but ultimately Ansah's upside and fit is too much to pass up on—especially given the premium the Steelers place on pass rushers.
18) Dallas Cowboys: S Kenny Vaccaro
The Cowboys stay in-state here and pluck the draft's most versatile and talented safety by adding Kenny Vaccaro.
With good overall size, speed and range, Vaccaro represents the new-age safety in the NFL.
Possessing the ability to come up and support the run, while also displaying the coverage ability to stick with receivers down field and in the slot make Vaccaro a future star-o in Big D.
19) New York Giants: OT D.J. Fluker
Linebacker is definitely a potential area to address with this pick, and the Giants have options between Alec Ogletree, Kevin Minter, Manti Te'o, Arthur Brown and Khaseem Greene.
However, with the recent release of Ahmad Bradshaw and an aging offensive line, the Giants make a confidence statement for new starting running back David Wilson with the addition of D.J. Fluker.
A powerful in-line blocker who simply engulfs opponents at the point of attack, Fluker has paved the way for both Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy in his last two seasons in Tuscaloosa.
His run-blocking skills would be a welcome addition and excellent fit to a team that is committed to the running game.
20) Chicago Bears: TE Tyler Eifert
The key issue here is that the Bears desperately need to address their porous offensive-line situation. However, with the way the board has played out, none of the available tackles or guards offer much value at this point in the draft.
Because of that, the team will likely have to reach slightly to fill one of their other big needs at tight end.
Between Zach Ertz and Tyler Eifert, both players would provide an upgrade and stability to a team that lacks a true playmaker at the position.
At the end of the day, I see the Bears reaching into their own back yard to pluck Eifert from nearby South Bend as a natural red-zone target for Jay Cutler.
Having seen what former Irish tight end Kyle Rudolph has done in Minnesota should be enough to warrant the pick, as Eifert combines natural body control with sticky hands to consistently catch the ball at its highest point.
21) Cincinnati Bengals: LB Alec Ogletree
While I could ultimately see this player going a lot higher by the time April rolls around, Alec Ogletree has been his own worst enemy with a recent DUI arrest.
Character concerns play a factor but most of the time talent and athleticism will win out. With that said, Ogletree has a lot of tough questions to answer about both his maturity and commitment to the game after multiple negligent off-field decisions.
Having experience and a track record of taking calculated risks on high upside players with character concerns, the Bengals would seem to be an ideal landing spot for the troubled Ogletree due to their veteran leadership.
22) St. Louis Rams: WR Keenan Allen
The Rams find good value and a viable weapon for Sam Bradford here with Keenan Allen.
Coming off a shortened senior season because of injury, Allen will likely slip some in the draft.
However, with good size for the position, excellent body control and the open-field agility and vision, Allen is a solid wide-receiver prospect overall.
Coming out of the first round with a talented offensive lineman and legitimate wide receiver should make Bradford happy, as the team desperately needs to continually add quality pieces around him.
23) Minnesota Vikings: WR DeAndre Hopkins
Let's be honest, the Minnesota Vikings and especially Christian Ponder need all the offensive weapons they can get.
Ponder clearly is an average/below average NFL quarterback, and outside of Percy Harvin, the team has no legitimate receivers on the roster.
With Allen going the pick before, the Vikings grab Hopkins, who is a very good route runner with great hands and the field awareness to give Ponder another reliable target.
24) Indianapolis Colts: DT Jesse Williams
Jesse Williams is a former rugby player who obviously understands the idea of leverage and the "low man wins" principle.
A stout and sturdy body, Williams is built like a rhino, where his low center of gravity and thick frame makes him a nearly immovable object in the middle of a defense.
The Colts need to find their nose tackle, and Williams' ability to anchor the middle of a defense and hold up to double teams make him a rather valuable commodity in the 3-4 scheme.
25) Seattle Seahawks: DE Datone Jones
Coming off a memorable and impressive performance at last month's Senior Bowl, Datone Jones is creating a lot of buzz in NFL circles.
The Seahawks have no glaring holes, but ideally they would like to build around their young quarterback Russell Wilson to give him more options.
Wide receiver is worthy of consideration, but ultimately it is Jones whose powerfully quick hands and suddenness as a pass-rusher make him a valuable component and fit in the Seahawks defense.
26) Green Bay Packers: RB Eddie Lacy
Historically, the Packers have stayed away from drafting running backs high, so this pick could have a low probability of actually happening. However, Eddie Lacy is just the type of back the Packers covet and need—even if they think otherwise.
A thundering ram and powerful inside runner, Lacy's surging running style and remarkably light feet give him a deadly combination of strength and agility.
While he may never be a true home-run threat, the ability Lacy shows to extend drives and close out games could be the perfect complement to Aaron Rodgers and his deadly accurate passing attack.
The Packers missed out on Marshawn Lynch back in 2010—passing on Lacy would be another lost opportunity for a team that lacks a true bell-cow back to lean on late in games.
27) Houston Texans: WR Terrance Williams
I was tempted to put Quinton Patton in this spot, but I believe Terrance Williams more closely matches what the Texans are looking for opposite Andre Johnson.
A tall receiver who effortlessly glides and accelerates past corners, Williams is a big body capable of taking the top off the defense and being another weapon in the red zone.
Linebacker is another avenue the Texans could explore with Minter still available; however, pairing Schaub's deep-ball accuracy with Williams' big-play ability could be a match made in football heaven.
28) Denver Broncos: CB Xavier Rhodes
The Broncos very easily could take one of the top-rated defensive tackles in this slot as both Kawann Short and Jonathan Hankins fill a need and represent good value.
However, what Broncos fans will never forget is the image of Jacoby Jones getting on top of Tony Carter and Rahim Moore with an AFC Championship berth on the line.
Desmond Trufant would probably be the better long speed corner to prevent this from happening again, but Xavier Rhodes' physicality and ability to support the run makes him the more well-rounded corner to eventually replace aging Champ Bailey.
29) New England Patriots: CB Desmond Trufant
A competitor in every sense of the word, Desmond Trufant not only has the bloodlines but also the arrogance and confidence to never back down.
Secondary, and specifically cornerback is a big need for the Patriots this offseason, and adding a talent like Trufant could be the winning combination on the back end of Belichick's defense.
Expect the team to also consider a safety or wide receiver with this pick, depending on what the team decides to do with Wes Welker.
30) Atlanta Falcons: DE Alex Okafor
John Abraham isn't getting any younger, and the Falcons need to add some depth and competition to the defensive-end position.
Alex Okafor is a nice player with the size and strength to collapse the pocket and rip through contact.
This, coupled with his relentless motor and powerful hands, make for a player who lacks great burst and acceleration but has a natural feel for the game to create turnovers and generate sacks and pressure.
Depending on what Tony Gonzalez decides to do will go a long way in deciding who the team will select. However, I personally don't buy his retirement talk and think a player like Gavin Escobar in the second round is a good fit and better overall value.
31) San Francisco 49ers: WR Tavon Austin
This will be seen as a luxury pick by a lot of fans, considering the team just took A.J. Jenkins in the first round last season.
The selection of Tavon Austin, however, presents yet another dynamic athlete and versatile player to keep opposing coaches up at night.
A true mismatch and a player capable of consistently winning one on one, Tavon Austin simply must be accounted for on every snap.
Pairing him in the read-option offense behind Colin Kaepernick or out in the slot gives the 49ers a ton of tactical diversion options to keep opponents constantly guessing and on their toes.
Imagine seeing Austin lined up in same offense as Colin Kaepernick and LaMichael James—the possibilities are endless and unbelievably scary.
32) Baltimore Ravens: S Jonathan Cyprien
There is perhaps not another player who has benefited more from the draft process than Jonathan Cyprien.
A relative unknown before the Senior Bowl, Cyprien's performance and ability to raise his game against elite competition proved to coaches that he belonged and could compete.
The Ravens need to replace not just one, but two future Hall of Famers in Ray Lewis and Ed Reed.
Reed may not be done as a Raven quite yet, but his successor needs to be developed and is not currently on the roster.
Adding Cyprien now gives Reed a chance to groom a young talent who is a natural in-the-box safety and a player with enough range and instincts to make plays in the deep half as well.